Where teachers meet and learn

Focus with MyEnglishLab

Focus 4 Student’s Book with MyEnglishLab Access Code

Sue Kay, Vaughan Jones, Daniel Brayshaw, Beata Trapnell

Pearson Education Limited (2016) Harlow, England.

ISBN 978-1-292-11009-7

Workbook

Daniel Brayshaw, Bartosz Michalowski, Beata Trapnell

ISBN 978-1-4479-9839-6

Teacher’s Book with Multirom

Arek Tkacz

ISBN 978-1-292-11010-3

Class CDs

Sue Kay, Vaughan Jones, Daniel Brayshaw, Beata Trapnell

ISBN 978-1-4479-9818-1

Teacher’s ActiveTeach

Sue Kay, Vaughan Jones, Daniel Brayshaw, Beata Trapnell

Pearson Education Limited (2016) Harlow, England.

ISBN 978-1-4479-9835-8

Focus 5 Student’s Book

Sue Kay, Tkacz, Daniel Bradshaw et al (2017)

ISBN 978-1-292-11001-0

Focus 4 and 5 are engaging and carefully-thought out blended learning courses designed to motivate 21st century teens and young adults and help them achieve a comfortable B2 or low C1 on the Common European Framework respectively.

Don’t judge these books by their covers, for this bumper resource pack boasts an impressive set of modern vocabulary and grammar-rich activities with a full range of options for learning and practice to help learners reach their language goals.  Pearson says they focus on three key concepts: Motivation, Memory and Meaning.  Teachers know that each of these concepts is vital in student learning, and the 3Ms can be seen in the student and teacher content provided in these materials. 

Not only is there a coursebook, a workbook, a CD and ActiveTeach CD ROM suitable for the Interactive Whiteboard, but for the on-line portal, each student has their own access code to their individualized learning platform page, while teachers in turn can use it to manage homework assignments, give tests and create their own materials. This is true for all levels of the Focus series, not just courses four and five. The Students’ Books are also available in digital format and the CD ROM even works well on the oldest of laptops!

More and more learners want clear lesson aims and, like their teachers, to know whether they are making progress. Pearson has these covered, informing learners using I Can statements at the start of each section, and the accompanying Workbook offers continuity and recycling of language, encouraging learner autonomy and self-assessment, as well as the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learnt with Show What You Know and Show What You’ve Learnt sections.

Because of the myriad of options and the on-line learning portal, the course works well for teachers and students of classes running over longer periods of time, although it could also be used for intensive courses, if the instructor is willing to put the time in to make the on-line part worth the effort and cost for the students.

The Students’ Books comprise seven to eight engaging and relevant units focusing on the four modalities, a vocabulary list (Focus 4), and a review section for each unit. At the back of the book is a small Use of English section and other kinds of practice in a smaller booklet, as well. The reading texts come in the form of blog posts, emails or longer, magazine-style articles – the majority concerning British and American culture, but also far-flung nations. For example, Focus 5 has a unit called Journeys, with an interesting reading text on Namibia’s desert. Swiss young adults travel a large amount and this should cater to their interests well. 

Those wishing to take the Pearson Progress examination receive the preparation they will need to succeed but we see no reason why students interested in taking other ESOL examinations could not also use Focus for their Use of English and Speaking exam needs, as most of the activities are set up for the students to take Cambridge courses and follow the needs of the CEFR requirements.

The Focus 4 and 5 Workbooks focus on providing students with practice for every sub unit, as are many other workbooks. There are self-assessments and checks at the end of each unit for the students to see how they have done. It is important to note that the CD ROM and on-line portals do not just repeat what’s in the teacher’s book and the workbook.

The Multirom and ActiveTeach components of the pack are impressive, with a lot of thought and effort gone into producing them, and the many entertaining, interactive revision activities will be a welcome addition to the classroom. Why not present grammar points in a more innovative and memorable way using the Grammar Animations on offer? In addition, there are various adaptable, ready-to-print tests so that teachers do not need to prepare their own from scratch.

Hats off to Pearson for making teachers’ lives much easier with a Teacher’s Book laid out in exactly the same way as the Student’s, with the answers already written in! There is also an abundance of photocopiable activities at the back of the book or in digital format to use at various stages of the course. The sheer amount of options could overwhelm the novice instructor, as there is no real structured lesson plan help offered in the Teacher’s Book, however, they will benefit from the accompanying notes on culture and the lessons.

For those looking for a comprehensive, modern course at upper levels with ample opportunity for assessment - Swiss upper secondary teachers, for example - Focus 4 and 5 are definitely worth looking into.

Patricia Jehle            FHNW-HSW Brugg/Windisch

Hannah McCulloch     Kantonsschule Trogen, Appenzell-Ausserrhoden